Blog Articles
07
John Boehner, Jeb Bush and Pat McCrory took their first steps this week along a Republican Party fault line that offers peril for each of them – and peril for Democrats if they succeed.
 
Boehner had to fend off a conservative challenge to his reelection as Speaker. Two dozen right-wing Republicans abandoned him. Lucky for him, 10 Democrats were absent for Mario Cuomo’s funeral.
 
The same day, Bush moved all-ahead full with a presidential campaign that includes reasonable talk about immigration reform, gay marriage and income inequality, even saying “the income gap is real.” Also striking was what his message didn’t have: the usual red-meat attacks on President Obama.
 
Governor McCrory sang from the same hymnal, pushing two issues that normally are anathema to the North Carolina GOP: job incentives and Medicaid expansion.
 
McCrory even asked Obama for help. Basically, he wants cover so he can say he has a “North Carolina plan” instead of a “Washington (read: Obama) plan.”
 
Democrats will get some jollies watching these less-than-red-hot Republicans walk this precarious precipice. But if the three get by, and look reasonable and effective, Democrats may not be so happy in 2016.

 

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07
In a realm filled with rumors in the blink of an eye fictions take root in fertile soil and blossom adopting the image of spoken truth like this one you’ve heard a hundred times: ‘Romney lost because he shifted too far to the right during the primaries.’
 
In fact, the polls told a completely different story
 
Here’s another: ‘Jeb Bush isn’t conservative enough to win the Presidential Primary’ – this new homily creates a damning circle of logic for Republicans and a heart-warming vision for Democrats: A conservative can’t win the General Election but only a conservative can win a Republican Primary.
 
Cruz can’t win, Paul can’t win, Bush can’t win, which only leaves one question unanswered: How on earth did the Democrats lose the last election?


 

 

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06
You’ve got to love Harry Reid, especially since Republicans hate him so bad.
 
The Harry-haters were hee-hawing and high-fiving last week after Reid hurt himself exercising. One wrote, “It Couldn’t Happen to a Nastier Guy.” Another speculated that Reid is into kinky sex.
 
Here’s hoping that Harry will get well and keep giving ‘em hell. He missed the Senate’s first day back, but his history suggests he won’t stop fighting.
 
Reid, who is 75, keeps in shape by doing pushups, situps and yoga. He was once an amateur boxer. As chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, he took on crooked gamblers. One planted a bomb on his family car, but Reid’s wife found the device.
 
He’s an old-style FDR Democrat. He pushed through Obamacare, which helps more people buy health insurance. And he fiercely protects Social Security, which he calls “the most successful antipoverty program since the fishes and the loaves.”
 
What will he say about the move by newly elected Republican Senators, including Thom Tillis, to eliminate the food-stamp program and replace it with “more affordable free market solutions”?
 
Reid is no golden-tongued orator. And he’s conservative on issues like guns and abortion. But he’s a tough battler who torments Republicans. Now, more than ever, with the handmaidens of the rich and powerful in the majority, the Senate needs him.
 
Get well, Harry.

 

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06
No predictions or resolutions! Instead let’s ask the big questions for 2015 for the state’s big three political forces: Governor McCrory, Republican legislators and Democrats.
 
For Governor McCrory, will 2015 be about policy and politics, or about personal ethics? As we tuned out for the holidays, he was eyeball-to-eyeball with the capital media, AP and reporter Michael Biesecker. Nobody blinked.
 
The Governor will have to deal with a fractious and sometimes unfriendly legislature, navigate tricky issues like Medicaid and the budget, and get ready to run again. All the while, he’ll face tough questions about his business ties.
 
As Carter noted, how does he explain getting $600,000 from Lending Tree and what does he think about the company’s shady-looking business practices? As Republican legislators asked privately, how does he defend selling Duke stock after the coal-ash spill? And what exactly did he do, and for whom, at Moore and Van Allen?
 
For Republican legislators, do they continue running student-body right, or run to the middle? What do they do about teacher pay in a tough budget year, especially after many of them ran last year on a promise to raise it to the national average?
 
For Democrats, how do they come back? As usual, they’re divided over the state party leadership. Some of them are discouraged and disappointed after high hopes were dashed in November. Others see hope in how much better they did here than Democrats across the South and the country.
 
A big question will be where to put their emphasis, and their money, for 2016. Get ready for Hillary? Concentrate on Cooper? Pick up more state House seats? Invest again in the tough Senate districts? Challenge Richard Burr? Fill Council of State vacancies? And how do they recruit rising stars for local offices?
 
For all three political teams, these are decisions that shape futures – theirs and the state’s.

 

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02
The President, unhappy with North Korea, announced he was going to ‘proportionately’ respond and the next day North Korea’s Internet went black which possibly is a coincidence but may also be proportionate.
 
Now, to be clear, getting hacked by North Korea is a little like getting bitten on the ankle by a small varmint. There’s no need to start a war over it. But there is an unanswered question: That varmint wouldn’t bite a Bengal tiger – so how is it the good ole U.S.A. doesn’t get the same kind of respect?
 
How did we get to be Pollyanna – instead of John Wayne?
 
And that’s why the President’s choice of that word ‘proportionately’ is troubling. It sort of sounds like he’s saying, You nipped us, so we’ll ding you back. Which lacks a certain warrior spirit. Which helps engender respect in varmints like Kim Jong-un.


 

 

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31
A reporter at The Hill newspaper up in Washington let Jeb Bush have it right between the eyes, reporting there’s ‘no love lost’ between Bush and the Republican base and that in Iowa the Tea Party activists are torching Bush’s conservative credentials.
 
Jeb Bush,” he quoted a radio talk show host as saying, “is on the wrong side of every issue that matters most to conservatives.”
 
It’s a simple picture painted in blacks and whites – with no bothersome grays. It also sounds a lot like the beginning of a classic political rant.
 
Now, granted, Jeb Bush isn’t Ted Cruz on immigration but, on the other hand, he was a tax cutting, austere, pro-school choice, pro-gun rights Governor. And it’s not every day a politician comes down the pike with the backbone to take a stand he knows is unpopular.
 
Jeb Bush’s record isn’t black and white but, who knows, a touch of nuance (with grays and subtle shadows) may lead to a more enlightened political debate than ‘he’s wrong on every issue.’


 

 

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31
2015 will mark the 10th year Carter and I have been doing this blog, as best I can tell from my records. The first posts I could unearth were in late 2005.
 
If memory serves, this was Carter’s idea. He and I worked together with a (non-partisan) client, and we traveled around the state talking to its members. Carter realized that they didn’t want us to talk about their issue so much as they wanted a “behind the curtain” look at how politics really works.
 
Blogging and online communications had just taken off in politics, thanks largely to Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004. As I recall, Carter simply said, “We should do a blog.”
 
So we did, with a lot of technical help. Today, 10 years later, few things make me happier than when someone says, “I read your blog every day.”
 
We never talked about how long we’d keep it up, but 10 years is pretty good. And I’m not about to stop now and give Carter the last word.
 
Why stop, anyway? As long as there are politicians and human folly, we’ll have plenty to talk about.
 
So Happy New Year to the politicians who give us so much folly to write about and, especially, to our readers!

 

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30
Obama may be aloof but he’s also soft-spoken and temperate and if he’s unpopular (due to his failures) beyond his failures he’s a genial man – a traditional liberal who believes government should help people out by providing healthcare and school lunches and so on.
 
But now and then, standing at a podium, the President will speak and for a brief moment a window will open revealing a man who has a vision of America that goes well beyond traditional liberalism.
 
These days it’s unfashionable to be against almost any kind of sex. Enlightenment today requires new levels of tolerance and progress requires not just broadening our views on sex but reforming the related institutions of matrimony, adoption and filing joint tax returns.
 
The other day the President, along with the Attorney General, trod further down the road of sexual progress than anyone else has dared to go – they declared ‘Transgenders’ are an official American Minority under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that the Justice Department stands ready to deal with anyone who differs.
 
Now with no undue disrespect to the President – or to Transgenders – that was a stretch: Not one soul in Congress back in 1964 ever dreamed he was voting to make Transgenders a minority.
 
So now, it looks like, instead of a soft-spoken traditional liberal we have a President on our hands who has a radical vision of the future – and who’s telling us with a straight face he believes fifty years ago Congress declared Transgenders a minority.


 

 

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29
Gary has a point in his column (below) ‘Pat and Jesse’: Pat McCrory’s fight with the Associated Press isn’t like Jesse’s long-running battles with the media.
 
In Jesse’s eyes, the media was biased. It didn’t like his conservative philosophy. Plus, as Senator John East once said admiringly, Jesse was a brawler. Part of him loved a good fight. But he was also subtle, picking his fights (with the media) on issues most people agreed with him on.
 
Pat McCrory’s a different kind of leader. He’s genial and personable and prefers avoiding a fight to diving into the middle of one.
 
But after he read the Associated Press report saying he hadn’t disclosed $600,000 in salary and stock options he’d received for serving on the Board of Lending Tree (an on-line lending company) he lost his geniality – he came out swinging, ripping into the AP saying itwas lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.
 
The Governor fired both barrels and when the bell rang ending the First Round the AP returned to its corner on wobbly-knees.
 
But the Governor still had a problem too – he’d picked a fight that left him facing a lose-lose proposition: If the AP was right he was in a fix. And if the AP was wrong it was still going to be hard to convince people Lending Tree had paid him $600,000 for his acumen about mortgage banking.
 
When the bell rang for Round Two as soon as he threw the first punch it was clear the Governor meant to cure that problem – because he didn’t even mention Lending Tree.  Instead he lit into the AP saying there were folks in Raleigh and Washington, D.C. who wanted to attack anyone who came out of the private sector and went into public service but, he added, without his time in the private sector he wouldn’t have been as good a mayor of Charlotte as he was and he wouldn’t be doing as good a job as Governor as he is.
 
The way the Governor said it sounded perfectly reasonable – but, in another way, he’d jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.
 
Because next he may hear Roy Cooper asking: And how exactly did working for an on-line lending company that was fined $3 million for misleading consumers make you a better Governor?


 

 

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29

 

Here’s, as Paul Harvey used to say, ‘The rest of the story’ about Louis Zamperini – from John Drescher’s column Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ misses subject’s deep faith.
 


 

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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